Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is an almost invariably fatal feline coronavirus (FCoV)-induced disease thought to arise from a combination of viral mutations and an overexuberant immune response. Natural initial enteric FCoV infection may remain subclinical, or result in mild enteric signs or the development of FIP; cats may also carry the virus systemically with no adverse effect. This study screened mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs), the presumed first site of FCoV spread from the intestine regardless of viraemia, for changes in the transcription of a panel of innate immune response mediators in response to systemic FCoV infection and with FIP, aiming to identify key pathways triggered by FCoV. Cats with and without FIP, the latter with and without FCoV infection in the MLN, were compared. Higher expression levels in FIP were found for toll-like receptors (TLRs) 2, 4 and 8. These are part of the first line of defence and suggest a response to both viral structural proteins and viral nucleic acid. Expression of genes encoding inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, including interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, IL-15, tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α, CXCL10, CCL8, interferon (IFN)-α, IFN-β and IFN-γ, was higher in cats with FIP, consistent with inflammatory pathway activation. Expression of genes encoding transcription factors STAT1 and 2, regulating signalling pathways, particularly of the interferons, was also higher. Among cats without FIP, there were few differences between virus-positive and virus-negative MLNs; however, TLR9 and STAT2 expression were higher with infection, suggesting a direct viral effect. The study provides evidence for TLR involvement in the response to FCoV. This could open up new avenues for therapeutic approaches.
- Coronavirus, Feline
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis/immunology
- Inflammation Mediators/immunology
- Lymph Nodes/immunology